Breathing Life Into Dead Spaces

"I don't have enough room!" -- this is a common cry amongst the disorganized. But sometimes, they just aren't looking closely enough. You can find additional storage in the most unlikely places. All of those wasted areas -- ones that can't be used for active living space and seem inappropriate for conventional storage -- are normally considered DEAD SPACE. But you can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse with the right tools and a little imagination.

LOOK, UP IN THE SKY!

Some of the best storage space you will ever find is over your head. What do you do with those high, short SHELVES in the tops of your closets? They're perfect for hats, smaller luggage, and items you don't use very often. What could you easily hang from the ceiling? Cookware, sporting goods, baskets -- just about anything. You can purchase special suspended racks, or create your own with standard supplies for your local hardware store. Keep an eye on those sturdy rafters in the attic, garage, or basement -- great for heavier items. The only rule is BE CREATIVE. A metal pole strung between to beams is custom-made for off-season, dress-up, or vintage clothing -- a large square of netting tacked at the four corners can hold stuffed animals -- and some thick plywood laid across your attic rafters will create an entirely new storage space.

LAYING LOW

Oftentimes, we focus too heavily on storage that is at eye level -- forgetting about the extra space we have near the floor -- under the bed, at the bottom of a closet, along the base of a wall in the garage. However, the last thing you want to do is simply create another pile that clutters up the floor and trips you up. Like any other storage, floor space will serve you much better if you subdivide -- create some structure. Long, flat boxes are great for subdividing the space under your bed. Shoe racks will help you make the best use of your closet floor. And you can create a ton of additional storage in your basement, attic, laundry room, or garage by lining the base of the wall with low shelves, pull-out baskets, and bins.

JUST HANGING AROUND

Another great place to find extra storage space is hanging along your walls. Almost anything can be attached to a wall -- just make sure that you use strong wall anchors if you plan to hang anything heavy. Give your tools and garden implements a permanent home on a peg board in the garage or basement. Hang see-through mesh bags of kids toys -- blocks, balls, army men -- from colored hooks on your child's wall. If your home lacks a hall closet, create one with an attractive coat rack in your entryway. Make room for belts, scarves, and purses along the walls in your closet. Hang coffee cups from the underside of your kitchen cabinet shelves. Or store grocery bags in a holder on the inside of your pantry or kitchen cabinet. All it takes is a little creativity, and a hammer!

SHUT THE DOOR ON THE WAY OUT

And as long as we're hanging things, let's take a look at your doors. Make sure that you attach all organizing paraphernalia firmly -- you don't want your racks or pegs coming loose the first time you close the door. And be careful about hanging anything that is too heavy -- or that will bang into your door and scuff it up. Other than those two rules, your options are limitless. Closet doors are just begging to be used for storage -- to hold a shoe rack, belt hooks, purses, or even a jewelry organizer. Your bathroom door is the perfect place for hanging a towel rack or a bathrobe. Putting a rack with shelves on the inside of a pantry door can sometimes double your food storage. And if your child needs someplace to hang bookbags and coats, why not consider a series of hooks on his or her bedroom door.

MAKING USE OF ODD-SIZED SPACES

One final word on using "dead space" -- don't be deceived by UNCONVENTIONAL storage areas. They may initially appear useless, but you can always do something with your storage. You might be able to fit a bicycle or cleaning supplies in that low closet under the stairs. Or use those tall thin cabinets for cookie sheets and serving platters. Does your pantry or linen closet stretch up higher than you can easily reach? Do you like to shop at Sam's or Costco? How about adding some shallow shelves for bulk toilet paper or extra canned goods? Never be afraid to outfit a strangely shaped storage space with whatever accessories are required to make it useful.

Ramona Creel is a Professional Organizer and the founder of OnlineOrganizing.com -- a web-based one-stop shop offering everything that you need to get organized at home or at work. At OnlineOrganizing.com, you may get a referral to an organizer near you, shop for the latest organizing products, get tons of free tips, and even learn how to become a professional organizer or build your existing organizing business. And if you would like to read more articles about organizing your life or building your business, get a free subscription to the "Get Organized" and "Organized For A Living" newsletters. Please visit http://www.OnlineOrganizing.com or contact Ramona directly at [email protected] for more information.

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How to Organize a Networking Dinner  HBR.org DailyMany professionals are intrigued by the idea of hosting their own networking event. After all, there are clear professional benefits to becoming known as a ...

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